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Breast cancer between faith and medicine: the Peres Maldonado ex-voto
  1. Lisa Pon1,
  2. James F Amatruda2,3,4
  1. 1Department of Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA
  2. 2Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
  3. 3Department of Molecular Biology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
  4. 4Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to James F Amatruda, Departments of Pediatrics, Molecular Biology and Internal Medicine, UT Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390-8534, USA; james.amatruda{at}


An ex-voto (from the Latin for ‘from the vow’) is an image made to express the patron's gratitude for divine assistance in the face of personal difficulty. Here, we describe a late 18th century Mexican painting that shows Doña Josefa Peres Maldonado undergoing a mastectomy, and, as an ex-voto, expresses her thanks for divine aid in having survived the operation. As such, the painting manifests Doña Josefa's response to her disease, drawing on both medical and religious sources of support. This brief report analyses the unusual double dedication of the ex-voto, the elaborate home altar it depicts and the surgical technique it demonstrates.

  • Religion and medicine
  • medicine in art
  • breast neoplasms
  • mastectomy
  • art and medicine
  • history of medical
  • cancer care

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.